The lawyers for Bishop Iker's Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth continue to stay several moves ahead of their ECUSA opponents. Bishop Ohl's and Bishop Buchanan's tactic of trying to lower the boom on the seven Bishops signing an amicus brief with the Texas Supreme Court in the Fort Worth case may be said to have backfired. Bishop Iker and his Diocese yesterday filed in that Court a Motion to expedite the hearing date (the Court has not set one yet) to October 16 or earlier. (October 16 is the date on which the Court has set the Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas case for oral arguments.)
In the Motion to expedite, the attorneys give as one of the reasons for the filing the recent disciplinary complaints filed against the Bishops who signed the amicus brief in the Fort Worth case:
On April 23, 2012, an amicus brief was filed in this case by seven bishops and three priests of The Episcopal Church (TEC). The brief supported the Fort Worth Diocese’s arguments that, should Texas adopt the Deference approach rather Neutral Principles for church property disputes, the final authority in the Episcopalian tradition on such disputes is the local bishop, not TEC’s national administrative office. On July 2, 2012, the Episcopal News Service, the “officially sponsored online news source” of TEC, reported that disciplinary complaints have been filed against the seven amicus bishops for their actions in filing the amicus brief in this case. See Tab A. (TEC lacks jurisdiction over local priests). Petitioners respectfully request that this Court expedite resolution of this appeal to avoid further collateral repercussions.The Motion also makes the case that delay is adding to the tension and anxiety of the Diocese's members, whose church properties the trial court ordered forfeited under the Dennis Canon:
As noted in the Fort Worth Diocese’s Statement of Jurisdiction filed over a year ago, the continuing uncertainty surrounding the potential eviction of more than 50 congregations from their church buildings has contributed to losses in membership and funds at some of the Diocese’s congregations that may prove irreparable. See 32CR7007-08. Indeed, the affiant who signed the affidavit attesting to these difficulties (former Canon Charles A. Hough, III) along with five other priests have now left the Diocese, and were ordained last week as Roman Catholic priests. See Tab B. Petitioners respectfully request that this Court expedite resolution of this appeal before these losses multiply.The motion concludes by recognizing that it is an unusual request, but states it has been brought "to bring to the Court’s attention matters currently taking place that are not reflected in the appellate record, and that may affect the Court’s handling of it."
In related news, the nine Bishops against whom complaints were filed have delivered their written reply to the letter to the Presiding Bishop signed by Bishops Ohl and Buchanan.